Rita Dove, one of the nation’s most preeminent poets, has published a novel, a play, a book of short stories and nine collections of verse, including one that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. She served as the U.S Poet Laureate from 1993-1995 and for the past two decades she has taught at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
Recently Dove was given what may be the biggest honor — and challenge — of her career: sorting through poems from the last 100 years to create “The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry.” Dove says it was a Sisyphean task that took more than four years. But she is very pleased with the result: a history lesson of the United States told in verse. She spoke to Jeffrey Brown in her home outside Charlottesville.
We’ll post Friday’s piece from the NewsHour here later this evening.
Here are additional excerpts from that interview:
Thirteen years ago, Dove’s home was struck by lightning. Both she and her husband, the German writer Fred Viebahn, escaped unharmed. But much of the house and all of their work was destroyed in the resulting fire. Several weeks later, friends tried to lift the couple’s spirits by taking them ballroom dancing, and it was the start of a brand-new passion for them. Dove even published a collection of poetry about dancing called “American Smooth.”
Dove’s poetry has always been heavily influenced by her love of music. Raised in Akron, Ohio, she was classically trained in voice and on the viola da gamba, a 17th century stringed instrument related to the cello. Here, Dove reads her poems, “Fox Trot Fridays,” from “American Smooth,” and “Singsong”:
You can read the poems here.
Dove and her husband have become such avid ballroom dancers, they built a large studio on their property outside of Charlottesville. Here’s a glimpse of the two of them dancing.